You haven’t seen the South until you’ve seen Lawrence.
Located an hour from Dunedin at the very top of the Clutha District, Lawrence is the site of one of the world’s largest and fastest gold rushes, which swept through town and surrounding area in the 1860’s. You still get a real sense of its rich history today.
Saunter around the historic town taking in its eclectic mix of gift and antique shops. Don’t miss Victorian gems like Anthem House where, you guessed it, the music for New Zealand's national anthem was composed.
Visit the Lawrence Information Centre and Tuapeka Goldfields Museum (9.30am - 4.30pm everyday) for a taste of the good old days and stroll to the very pretty Bellview Wetlands (open 10am to 6pm Saturday and Sunday) in the heart of town.
A longer stroll from the town centre or quick drive (1.4 km, 1 min drive) takes you to the Lawrence Chinese Gold Miners Camp. One of the most important sites of its kind in New Zealand.
If you’re here on a Spring weekend (mid-September to mid-October) you must check out the delightful daffodil display in the ruins of the Weatherstons Brewery heritage site on Waipori Road (2.8 km, 5 min drive).
Follow Gabriel’s Gully Rd, off the main street of Lawrence, on a short drive (3.7 km, 5 min drive), to Gabriel’s Gully Interpretative Track. Gabriel’s Gully was named after Gabriel Read who found the first golden nugget in 1861, sparking Otago's gold rush.
The easy to moderate 80 minute walk includes interpretation panels along the way telling the goldmining story. There is a spot in Gabriels Gully Reserve where you can pan for gold, and a tranquil picnic area at nearby Greys Dam.
Breakfast / Lunch
The Prospector, Lawrence
Bean Jazzed, Lawrence
Beaumont Hotel, Beaumont
Coach and Horses, Lawrence
If you have a few extra days, the best way to truly soak up the rich heritage of early New Zealand is to get out and about on the Nga Haerenga Great Ride of New Zealand Clutha Gold Cycle and Walking Trail. You can start (or finish) the trail in Lawrence.
It takes you through stunning landscape all the while following the mighty Clutha River – New Zealand’s largest and fastest river. The current 73km grade easy trail takes between two and four days to complete – it is set to get even bigger and better with the route in the process of being extended all the way to Lake Waihola.
Mark and Jude at Lawrence Bike Transfers can help you out with your bike transfers along the way.
Depart Lawrence and take the cross-country route to Tuapeka Mouth via Tuapeka West or follow the Clutha River from Lawrence through Beaumont (Rongahere Gorge) hugging the amazing turquoise blue hue of the country’s most impressive waterway (44.7 km, 33 min drive via Beaumont or 26.2 km, 28 min drive via Tuapeka West).
Don’t miss a trip on Clutha’s fantastic free ferry the Tuapeka Punt (referred to by locals as the 8th wonder of the world) powered by the flow of the mighty Clutha River. Dating back to the 1890s, the Tuapeka Punt crosses the Clutha River everyday running between 10am - 2pm (check out their Facebook page for updates, as crossings are dependent on daily river levels).
Kaka Point and Nugget Point
Depart Tuapeka Mouth for Kaka Point (55 km, 42 min drive), through Balclutha, Clutha's main service town. Kaka Point is a picturesque seaside village at the Northern most edge of the Catlins. Named after the Kaka parrot, KP, as it’s known by locals, is famous for its surfing and spectacular scenery, particularly from the iconic Nugget Point.
Drive out to Nugget Point (9 km, 15 min drive) and walk out to the 1869 Nugget Point Lighthouse perched above the famous rock formations (named by Captain Cook who thought they looked like golden nuggets with the sun shining down on them).
Stop at the first viewing lookout located just above the car park and look for the fur seal colony below with a chance to see dolphins too. You can often see seals below the lighthouse along with a range of sea birds.
A short drive from Nugget Point is Roaring Bay (750m, 2 min drive) where you can often spot the very rare Hoiho (yellow-eyed penguins). The best time to see them is late in the afternoon once they come back to nest after a day’s fishing, or early morning as they head to sea to fish.
The Yellow House
The Headmaster’s House
Mike & Jenny’s Kaka Point Accommodation
Breadalbane House B&B
Kaka Point Camp Ground
Nugget View Kaka Point Motels
The Salty Bushman B&B
Lawfield Farm Stay
Kenthurst Luxury B&B
Breakfast / Lunch
Heart and Soul
Rosebank Cafe and Grill
The Point Café and Bar (lunch)
CasaFuego Eatery and Bar
Two Fat Stags
Raj Indian Restaurant
The Point Café and Bar (bookings essential)
Note: 20 minute drive between Kaka Point and Balclutha.
Onwards to Owaka stopping at Cannibal and Surat Bay [27 km, 30 min drive] which are renowned as some of the best places to see sea lions in The Catlins. A marked walkway through the dunes connects these two beautiful beaches.
Catlins Horse Riding - “Personalized horse riding to suit you”. They can cater for almost anyone – individuals, couples, families, small groups and anyone with an adventurous nature, love of the outdoors, animals and natural beauty of which ‘The Catlins’ has plenty to offer.
Next stop, Owaka [8.8 km, 14 min drive] The Catlins’ biggest town with a population of 400. Lush rain forest, spectacular steep valleys, amazing white sandy beaches and a large tidal lake surround this town.
Call into the Owaka Museum a popular palace of memories, similar to walking through a 3D storybook. Tales of Maori settlements, shipwrecks and pioneer settlers in a true reflection of The Catlins' rich history.
Explore Earthlore Nature Tours and Activities a quirky, fun and one of a kind experience! This conservation centre is full of character, and offers a truly unique eco experience for the whole family. The vast array of insects, wildlife, interactive games and much more await at this special sanctuary! Gordon and Janine also offer nature tours throughout the Catlins, helping you to help nature.
Take a short drive to Long Point and Jack's Bay [9.4 km, 13 min drive] for more opportunities to see penguins, seals and sea lions. The reserve is run by the Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust and the Department of Conservation. You can't go past, Jack’s Blowhole [1.3 km, 4 min drive + 1 hour walk one way] a sunken sea cave with marvellous views of Long Point and all the way back to the Nuggets.
Further south are the magnificent triple tiered Purakaunui Falls [17.4 km, 24 min drive from Jack’s blowhole carpark]. Just a short stroll from the car park is the rare treat of a central viewing platform really close to the cascading falls. Mesmerising and magical!
The nearby Purakaunui Bay [10.5 km, 18 min drive from Purakaunui Falls] has the highest cliffs in The Catlins and some of the biggest waves – in fact the winter waves are some of the biggest ever ridden in New Zealand.
Catlins Mohua Park Eco Accommodation
Catlins River Station House
Kepplestone By The Sea
Pounawea Grove Motel
Pounawea Motor Camp
Surat Bay Lodge
Owaka Lodge Motel
Tiromoana Catlins Ocean View
Catlins Area Motel
Catlins Newhaven Holiday Park
Breakfast / Lunch
Tahatika Coffee Traders, Owaka (coffee only)
Bakehouse Takeaways, Owaka (lunch)
Catlins Café, Owaka
Catlins Inn, Owaka
Bakehouse Takeaways, Owaka
Lumberjack Café and Bar, Owaka
Catlins Inn, Owaka
First stop is Tahakopa Beach which you can find from the Old Coach Road walking track at Papatowai, where sea lions and penguins turn up to enjoy the solitude. Old Coach Road walking track is 40 minutes return. The area is well known for its fantastic birdlife and song with terrific tuis in abundance. The estuary also offers some good fishing options for flounder and clams.
The Lost Gypsy – an institution in these parts this veritable treasure trove of imagination and invention has been brought to life using recycled bits and bobs by our very own organic mechanic. Magic, movement, mayhem, mirth and merriment await.
The next stop is Florence Hill Lookout [3.4 km, 4 min drive from Papatowai] for breath-taking vistas of Tautuku Bay and its peninsula, however the best way to experience this special place is below on the beach.
Lake Wilkie [2.2 km, 2 min drive from Florence Hill Lookout] is a peat lake that is famous for its mirror reflections on a clear still day.
From there the next stop is Cathedral Caves [8.0 km, 10 min drive to carpark] is one of the World’s largest sea cave complexes with 200 metres of passageways and amazing acoustics thanks to their sheer size rising up 30 metres high. The cost is $10 per adult. Check the tides and opening times at www.cathedralcaves.co.nz.
McLean Falls [6.0 km, 20 min drive to carpark] are the highest of the lot and the longest walk but still only 20 minutes each way and definitely worth it. Mighty and majestic the word “awesome” actually does apply for a change.
For one final, spectacular treat, visit the Curio Bay Petrified Forest [35.2 km, 44 min drive]. The fossilized trees you’ll see at this World Heritage Site were alive around 170m years ago when New Zealand was part of the Gondwana super continent. It’s thought massive sheet floods of volcanic debris destroyed the forest and in the millions of years since, deeply sediment buried sediment has turned the wood to rock. The forest is best viewed at low tide.
For specialist eco tours which will take you to seriously secret spots and hidden highlights, contact Lyndon and Gill at Catlins Tours. They’re the only people to have an official DOC license to operate.
Whistling Frog Resort
Chaslands Farm Cottages
Slope Point Accommodation
Curio Bay Accommodation
Catlins Beach House, Curio Bay
Curio Bay Camp Ground
Curio Bay Salt House
Lazy Dolphin Lodge
Breakfast / Lunch
The Little Rocket coffee caravan
Peakes Kitchen (lunch)
Peakes Kitchen (early dinner)